BBC Panorama featured a programme on “Domestic Abuse.” Or did it?

by Ian McNicholl, male domestic abuse survivor and Honorary Patron of ManKind

On Monday 8th December 2014, BBC Panorama featured a programme on “Domestic Abuse.”  Or did it?

Having watched the Documentary, undertaken a period of reflection and reviewed the Documentary once again, I would encourage you to watch the Documentary and ask the following question:

What message did the BBC and the Producer(s) of Panorama seek to deliver?

It is unclear as to what influence certain well known groups had over the final content and if this was influential to their “Terms of Engagement.” Furthermore, it also remains unclear if the professional opinions expressed within the Documentary were edited.   However, it is evident that as a direct result of conscious decision making by those in an influential position connected to the end product, that comparable, and influential statistical information was withheld.  For example, “”80 Women were killed” and “1 in 4 Women will experience Domestic Abuse.” The inclusion of comparable statistics would have aided balance and increased awareness.

 

As a Male Survivor of Domestic Abuse, I must give immense credit to the brave women who featured in the Documentary and I am confident that their individual and collective contribution will encourage many more Female Victims to come forward and escape their abuser.

 

Looking forward, I remain of the view that the Media will continue to play a pivotal role in the delivery of “Public Policy” and it is this policy that that will continue to influence society’s perception of “Domestic Abuse.” We must all remember that as Victims of Domestic Abuse launch their personal escape bids, it is the “Public” who facilitate many valuable assists and this intervention is certainly life changing if not life saving.  Has Panorama supported or placed barriers in the way of these escape bids?

 

Despite a period of reflection, I remain of the view that the Panorama Documentary simply reinforced the stereotypical view that Domestic Abuse is experienced by Females at the hands of Males.  This is deeply worrying.  For example, t he “White Ribbon Campaign” seeks to end “Male Violence Against Women.”  Have we forgotten about the poor females experiencing Domestic Abuse within same sex intimate partner relationships?

Panorama has, in my opinion, failed in its “Duty of Care” as the message the Documentary delivered was in direct conflict with the introduction.  The introduction did not indicate that the Documentary was an insight/investigation into Female Victims of Domestic Abuse.  Furthermore, Panorama has failed to support the many professionals working tirelessly to encourage all victims of Domestic Abuse to take their very first brave steps on the road to recovery.  Disappointingly, Panorama has simply watered the seeds of exclusion.

 

Whatever the aims and objectives of Panorama, the BBC have failed on numerous counts by giving air time to a Subject Matter that affects many within our Neighbourhoods and Communities by presenting a Gender Bias (therefore lazy and misguided,) view, of Domestic Abuse which can only negatively influence the perception of society further.

This will no doubt place additional barriers in the way of support for those perceived as “minority victim groups.

 

Panorama needed to send out a clear and concise message:

Domestic Abuse is everyone’s business, FULL STOP.

 

Annex 1: Reply from the Producer of Panorama to my complaint

Thank you for taking the time to write to BBC Panorama.

 

I am the Producer Director of Domestic Abuse: Caught on Camera. I wanted you to know that I have read your email, Mr McNicholl…

 

Our initial research into domestic abuse was conducted with an open mind. The eventual decision by the Panorama programme to focus on the experience particularly of women of what is called “coercive control” does not diminish or deflect from the fact that men can suffer violence at the hands of women, or that women can also be controlling. However those latter issues were not what this programme chose to focus on. Domestic abuse is a very complex and multifaceted area. There are a number of subjects we would have liked to touch on but were not able to in a single film.

 

But, the programme did include the script line, “Women can be violent or controlling too and same sex relationships can be abusive. Too often domestic abuse against anyone is only tackled once someone is hurt”. We were careful to use gender neutral language (e.g. “people”; “partner”; “abusive partner”; “violent partner”; “abusers” etc) where possible and relevant.

 

Also, the online piece for the BBC news website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30330669) associated with our film, written by BBC reporter Victoria Derbyshire included the line, “That’s because – irrespective of whether the abuser is male or female….”.

 

Across the balance of its coverage the BBC and BBC News and Current Affairs has endeavoured to tell a range of stories about the important issue of domestic abuse, from different angles.

 

For example, on the Friday before our Panorama film was broadcast a Newsbeat reporter Nomia Iqbal did cover the issue of men experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of women: http://m.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30303405. The Victoria Derbyshire show has done an hour long programme about men talking about their experiences of emotional and physical abuse (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01yszr4), BBC News has repeatedly done pieces, particularly locally (just one example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-29108616). Women’s Hour has featured the abuse of men as well. There has been a relatively recent piece on one group of men (Asian men) who have suffered domestic abuse (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw0gr).

 

We note that from the relevant organisation Mankind Initiative’s own tally of media coverage which included male victims between 7th Dec 2007 – 4th Dec 2013, over 50% was BBC produced coverage. (http://www.mankind.org.uk/pdfs/(4)%202007%20to%20Dec%202013.pdf).

 

We are confident that we have overall taken a balanced look at these issues, as a Corporation.

 

 

 

Ten year conviction rates show female domestic violence perpetrators less likely to be prosecuted

Through a series of Freedom of Information Requests and historical Parliamentary data, the ManKind Initiative can reveal (Convictions 200405 to 201314)   that conviction rates are far lower for alleged female perpetrators than for male perpetrators.

CPS (E+W): PROSECUTIONS FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BY GENDER
Female
Convictions Unsuccessful TOTAL
2004-2005 806 51.20% 769 48.80% 1,575
2005-2006 1,474 56.60% 1,132 43.40% 2,606
2006-2007 1,850 62.30% 1,120 37.70% 2,970
2007-2008 2,540 67.40% 1,230 32.60% 3,770
2008-2009 2,968 69.6% 1,298 30.4% 4,266
2009-2010 3,494 68.8% 1,588 31.2% 5,082
2010-2011 3,968 67.9% 1,876 32.1% 5,844
2011-2012 3,769 70.0% 1,617 30.0% 5,386
2012-2013 3,231 69.6% 1,414 30.4% 4,645
2013-2014 3,735 69.9% 1,610 30.1% 5,345
Male
Convictions Unsuccessful TOTAL
2004 -2005 18,659 55.30% 15,094 44.70% 33,753
2005-2006 28,736 55.90% 19,209 40.10% 47,945
2006-2007 35,647 65.30% 18,913 34.70% 54560
2007-2008 41,430 69% 18,607 31% 60,037
2008-2009 45,484 72.4% 17,321 27.6% 62,805
2009-2010 49,843 72.2% 19,176 27.8% 69,019
2010-2011 55,122 72.2% 21,201 27.8% 76,323
2011-2012 54,366 73.6% 19,510 26.4% 73,876
2012-2013 49,289 74.7% 16,725 25.3% 66,014
2013-2014 54,512 75.0% 18,172 25.0% 72,684
Sources:
2004-2008 http://bit.ly/1zE1IdH
2008-2014 FOI requests to CPS

ManKind Initiative submits evidence to Home Office consultation on strengthening domestic abuse law

This week, the ManKind Initiative submitted evidence to the Home Office’s consultation on Strengthening the Law on Domestic Abuse.

ManKind Initiative Response

The substantive points made were that we agreed with the government’s proposals because:

 

  • It will reduce the ‘believability threshold’ for male victims to the same level for female victims. This is broadly because while the statutory sector will recognise physical injuries on a male, they will not so readily accept or recognise non-physical ‘controlling or coercive’ behaviour on a man

 

  • We also believe that the law would help ensure that the threat and use of false allegations and the threat of denying parental contact is fully recognised as a controlling and coercive behaviour. This also includes recognising the continual and purposeful breach of parental contact orders as a form of domestic abuse.

 

ManKind Initiative gives evidence to the Welsh Assembly

Earlier this month, the charity’s Chairman gave evidence to the The Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee who are looking at the Welsh Government’s proposed Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill.

The charity made a ManKind Initiative Consultation Response and a further ManKind Initiative Consultation Response (Follow Up) submission following the hearing.

The evidence session can be seen here ( start at 1 hr  32 mins 55 secs) and also the transcript can be seen here (start at paragraph 215).

The substantive points made were:

 

  • To focus on female victims of these crimes, and not all victims, would relegate men (in heterosexual and same-sex relationships) and their sons and daughters to continuing to be second class victims.

 

  • This would have a catastrophic effect on the provision of services through new commissioning/existing delivery, the creation of new services and also the encouragement of men to come forward. This would be because the application of the Law would be female-centric based on gender rather than victim/individual-centric based on need.

 

  • One of the challenges he put was that c90% of men are homeless but no one would rightly dream of renaming the Welsh Homelessness Act 2002, the Male Homelessness Act 2002, so why would the assembly insert the word ‘Women’ into an Act where  the ratio of people suffering is c60-65% women and 35/40% men (I stuck to Home Office figures)?. This gained no traction for unknown or rational reasons.

 

We disagreed with screening for helplines but expected the police, refuge/safe houses and other front-line staff to do so.

Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #8: Women suffer 35 or more incidents of domestic abuse before getting help but no male figure

This figure is still being used even though it is over 30 years old and relates to Canadian women. It may indeed be true, in fact it could be more, but no such research was carried on male victims so there is no reciprocal data. Its use without the reciprocal data again means the male voice and statistics on male victims are not being used.

The CPS use it, as do Refuge and Women’s Aid (though they do caveat it)

So where does it come from?

The source is Canadian academic Dr. Peter G Jaffe and the research paper is called An integrated response to wife assault : a community model.

Some sources say 1982 and others say 1984, but the research took place in 1981. And it was only conducted with female victims. Male victims were certainly never recognised way back then.

At least we know in the UK now, figures for female victims have reciprocal figures for male victims, even if some selectively only choose to use the female victims still.

Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #7: Women are three times as likely to be arrested for domestic abuse then men

In 2009, Professor Marianne Hester at Bristol University produced research called Who Does What to Whom.

The assertion was made that women accused of domestic abuse were three times more likely to be arrested than a man. This myth has turned into fact and is still being used wholesale without challenge.

 

The research is very limited in terms of sample size (32 male and 32 female perpetrators) but also there is no comparison on the actual severity of the crimes involved – only such a comparison can be made when a man puts a knife in his female partner’s back and doesn’t get arrested but a women is arrested when the genres are reversed.

In addition, Ally Fogg (freelance journalist and writer) also wrote to say that “What we have here is not the ratio of how many men/women are arrested against how often they have committed an offence, but the ratio of how many men/women are arrested against how often a police officer decides that, on the balance of probabilities, they might have been more at fault.”

Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #6: Two women are killed but no mention of the male figure

One per year, is one too many.

The main concern on the use of two women being killed by their male partner every week statistic, is not so much that the annual figure is generally lower than this (77), but the fact that when it is produced in the media, by the government and by others, the male equivalent figure is never used (15). The figures from the British Crime Survey are here BCS 2012 13 (pub Feb 14) homicides and relationship

Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #4: Domestic abuse is overwhelmingly committed against women by men.

A line not used so much now but it can still be found actively being used by organisations such as Paladin.

Why is it such a problem?

Firstly, as acknowledged by the government and increasingly the mainstream, 38% of victims of domestic abuse are male which means 62% of victims are women which cannot be said to be “overwhelming”.

Secondly, again it is used to marginalise male victims so that public policy, services and recognition is wholly geared to supporting female victims, and not all victims based on need.

Our friends at PARITY who after seeing the figure being consistently used and unchallenged three years ago complained to the UK Statistical Authority (Correspondence 1 and Correspondence 2) They said the phrase “overwhelmingly” could not be used by statutory agencies as the ratio between men and women could not be seen as being overwhelming. The Crown Prosecution Service had been using it for years beforehand which greatly damaged the cases of male victims and female perpetrators coming before the court.

Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #3: Domestic abuse services are being taking away from female victims and given to male victims

A number of assertions, presented as fact, have been made that domestic abuse services are being cut from female victims and given to men. The chief executive of Women’s Aid has said  “We have been told by local Women’s Aid federation organisations that they are funded locally on the basis they have to provide services to male victims, and they are rarely used despite putting time and money into promoting this.”

This is untrue. There is no evidence.

The chairman of the charity asked the chief executive on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour for evidence – but none has still been published or proved.

The Guardian in August led with a story that domestic abuse services for female victims were being cut – which is shameful. One of the arguments put forward on why this is happening through the Guardian is that commissioners such as councils are:

  • taking some funding allocated for female victims and reallocating some to services for male victims – thereby cutting female services
  • making “funding cuts [to female refuges] because refuges do not take men” (and therefore it is presumed funding being given to groups that do take men)
  • the refuge places for men are not being used and/or have had no referrals.

 

The information in the Guardian about The Haven (who do a great job in supporting female victims) was untrue – as in Wolverhampton they do not offer services for men yet (there was a tentative proposal to open male spaces early this year but this cannot progress sadly until the council determines the services they want tendered, hence why they have had no referrals).

Coventry council, as shown in the online piece from the national commentator Ally Fogg are increasing the budget for domestic abuse victims, some of this increase will be for male services, but not at the cost of services for female victims. The council’s paper proves this.

This particular line of argument about the awful cuts in female services is of great concern to us.

Firstly because of the lack of real and hard evidence that these cuts in female services are based on an increase in services for male victims. Six weeks ago, I asked in a Radio 4 debate on Woman’s Hour for this evidence to be published.

Secondly, it is an unnecessary and unacceptable attempt to portray service provision for male victims (such as it is*) in a negative light (‘ if there is a male service opening near you it must be because the council took funding away from female victims’) – and also to try and marginalise male victims in general.

All of us in the sector should be calling for more provision and support for victims of all genders. It is a competition for more services for all victims, not a competition of one gender against another.

The chairman asked a wide range of organisations it works with whether they knew of this but no one has come forward.